Sustainable ‘food island’ in Educatorium as a testing ground for research

“A lot of research is being done within the university into biodiversity, sustainable food and its effects on society. It is therefore logical that you also look at how we as a university can apply this in practice," says professor Rens Voesenek of the strategic research theme Future Food Utrecht during the official opening of the Future Food Lab on Wednesday September 11.

The researchers from Future Food contacted Green Office Utrecht and caterer Sodexo with the request to collaborate. It turned out that Sodexo found a Future Food Lab an interesting idea. Therefore, they have created a food island in the canteen of the Educatorium where only products that meet the sustainability criterion can be obtained. This means that the sandwiches and soup, for example, are solely vegetarian and the ingredients are sourced from regional providers. "We are also looking at how we can reuse food that is leftover, for example by turning old bread into a loaf cake," says the Sodexo chef.

This food island is not just about the supply. It is also a kind of living laboratory where students and scientists can tackle a research question. “It is possible that Sodexo wants advice on how to reduce its waste flow. Or how you logistically ensure that you bundle the supply in the region in such a way that you do not have to deal with 35 different suppliers,” explains René Kwant of the Future Food Lab. He is one of the initiators of the project.

What is special as well is that Sodexo has adjusted its cash register system in such a way that it is possible to see exactly what is being bought in the Future Food Lab and what the caterer has purchased for it. That data can be used for research. This cannot only be used by scientists, since students can use that data for a research project as well.

"The idea is that we collect information that provides insight into how we can make the food supply in the canteens more sustainable and future-oriented," says Kwant. “In addition, we want to organize regular lectures at the Future Food Lab that are accessible to all students and staff.”